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Jof's World Tour: There and back again:

Trip miles so far 1668

By Jon Newey

Spoiler alert: What started as a ‘world tour’ isn’t quite there…. not yet at least. As Robert Burns said ‘The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley…’

I’ve been in Toronto for nearly a week now. If you’ve read my earlier blogs you’ll know that I’m here waiting for my motorbike, Tigger, to join me. I’ve spent much of the week making sure that I don’t stray too far from my hostel’s Wi-Fi so that I can continue to work on the challenge of getting Tigger across the Atlantic. It is more difficult than I imagined.

Anyone reading this who is involved in international freight for a living will already know that things usually go best if you have two shipping agents, one at the place of despatch and one at the place of delivery. Anyone who is not experienced with international freight, me included, probably doesn’t know this. I start to realise that I am missing a vital part of the jigsaw. Without an agent here in Toronto it will be left to me to:

a) find Tigger in the airport

b) extract Tigger from the airport

c) extract Tigger from his packing crate

d) resolve the ‘temporary import’ paperwork

e) dispose of the packing crate outside of the airport somewhere and

f) drive Tigger away.

Toronto’s Pearson International Airport covers 20 square miles on the map. It handles 50% of all of Canada’s air freight. Without Tigger to hand my only means of transport is my own two feet and I don’t know where to start. I start to realise that I am out of my depth. Casey Stoner once said of Valentino Rossi that his ambition exceeded his abilities. This might be the only occasion that I can equate myself with Valentino…

I am advised that I should simply go to Terminal 1 and ask. I am advised to take a jerry can of petrol with me because Tigger’s tank has been emptied ready for transport. Terminal 1 is like any large international airport terminal. It is full of check-in desks, tourists with suitcases, car rental desks and security guards with guns. You are not allowed to bring a bottle of water into the building. I think if I try taking a jerry-can full of petrol in I will be arrested or worse, shot on sight. I try contacting the airport for advice but nothing useful is forthcoming. I try trawling the internet to find a suitable local shipping agent but nothing useful comes of that either. I find that I am at a dead end.

Out of curiosity I enquire whether it would be possible to cancel Tigger’s shipment. Tigger is still in London so the answer is yes, it is possible. Out of curiosity I check whether I could get a flight back to London to reunite myself with Tigger. The answer is yes, there’s space on a flight in a few days’ time. I close my laptop and go for a walk. I call into Loblaws, Canada’s version of Tesco (other supermarkets are also available…), and buy myself some lunch. Back at the hostel it takes less than 10 minutes to cancel Tigger’s shipment and book myself onto a flight. I have had a pleasant week in Toronto but I can’t stay here indefinitely. I need to go back to London and make a new plan.

It is Friday and the sun is shining. With these decisions now made I resolve to visit to the CN tower. When in Toronto, surely it would be rude not to. To be honest I’m not a fan of major tourist attractions and normally try to avoid them. The queue for the CN tower stretches out across the adjacent square. Inside they take a photo of every visitor against a green-screen background. I do my best to avoid the obvious money-trap. The lift takes us up to the rotating café at 1,464 feet above the ground. The café has floor-to-ceiling frameless glass so I suggest you don’t go if you suffer from vertigo. The view is amazing. The shiny towers of Toronto seem to stretch to the horizon on the north, east and west sides. Lake Ontario stretches to the horizon to the south. I peer into the distance but can’t see Niagara Falls. Google tells me that London is twice the size of Toronto. I find it hard to believe. The view from the top of the Shard must be astounding. I take the lift back down, zig-zag my way through the maze-like souvenir shop without getting booby-trapped and exit back into the sunshine.

Back at the hostel I relax reading a book that I’ve taken from the hostel’s bookshelf.

The next morning is Saturday. Today I have to move out of the 6-bed dorm because it has been booked by a school party. I am offered a space in a 2-bed room in the attic. There’s a sunny roof terrace adjacent which I have all to myself. I read for a while and then take myself out to see Toronto’s art gallery. The building was remodelled by the Architect Frank Gehry a few years ago and the interior is very impressive. It is quite calm and understated by Gehry’s normal exuberant standards. Each room is a collection of paintings donated by a wealthy benefactor, so the different periods of art tend to be a bit jumbled up. I’m impressed by the room full of Henry Moore maquettes, the plaster casts and carvings from which some of his bronze sculptures were made. There are some interesting Rodin sculptures too. I’m even more impressed by lunch in the café, the best meal I’ve had in Toronto so far.

My new room-mate is a Canadian lad called Ben. He’s spent the past 5 months being a free-range human in South America and is now on his way home. He’s full of energy and full of stories. He complains about the hostel’s prices which are ten times what he’s been paying recently in Cancun. It occurs to me that he’s the only actual Canadian I’ve talked to in Canada….

The next morning, Sunday, the breakfast room is filled with a French-speaking school party. Loic shakes his head. The Quebec language is quite different from the French language spoken in France and he has difficulty understanding it. Above the chatter I notice an English voice. It belongs to Emma, a school teacher from Lincolnshire who is crossing Canada by train. She’s come all the way from Vancouver and is overnighting in Toronto before heading on to Ottawa later in the day. It turns out she’s a biker, with a 500cc Royal Enfield back home which she originally bought in India. We find that we know some of the same people and have read some of the same books about motorcycle traveling. She sympathises with me over the difficulties of shipping motorcycles across continents. She has plans to ride to Scotland one day so we agree to keep in touch.

I take a walk downtown to the railway station to check where to find the UP, the Union-station-to-Pearson-airport train shuttle, then spend the rest of the day reading on the roof terrace. It’s a hard life. I go back to JZ’z in the evening for one of their thin-crust pizzas. Ben has drifted on to pastures new so tonight I have the room to myself.

Monday comes and it is my last day in Toronto. My flight is at 8:30pm. I leave my backpack at the hostel’s reception and take a walk to Castle Loma. Castle Loma is one of Toronto’s ‘historic’ buildings. The date stone says 1911. I’ve lived in terraced houses that are older! Its an impressive building none-the-less. It was built by a successful business man but was confiscated by the state when he failed to pay the property taxes (that's after the state had increased the property taxes by 200% to fund their war efforts in 1920…). It is now a museum. I decide to sketch it but realise that I’ve left my paints and pencils in my backpack back at the hostel. A nearby shop sells me a HB pencil for $1. I would have preferred a 2B or softer but beggars can’t be choosers. I sit and draw a quick pencil sketch. I find I’m sitting in a popular ‘photo-op’ spot and before long I draw not only a sketch but also a small crowd. [Later I add some watercolour washes while sitting in the airport’s departure lounge waiting for my plane, much to the bemusement of my fellow passengers. Do you ever wonder how many other people’s holiday snaps you appear in, or is that just me?]

From Castle Loma I head back to the hostel, get myself some lunch (composed of a random assortment of foods left over in my kitchen locker), collect my backpack and get myself onto the UP. The UP delivers me right inside the airport terminal. I’ve already done an online check-in so I head through security and head straight to the departure gate. A screaming baby does what screaming babies do for a solid two hours while we are waiting to board. On the plane, Screaming Baby is in the seat in front of me. Screaming Baby keeps it up for a solid 8 hours on the flight. Sitting next to me are a couple from Glasgow. They are a few years older than me. They retired to Canada five years ago and this is their first time going back to the UK to visit family. They flew into Toronto from Prince Edward Island early this morning, fell over on a moving escalator and have spent the whole day in Toronto airport’s medical room. I think of my own mother who lives an 8-hour drive from my house, which often seems like a very long way, and I wonder how these two are going to cope as they get older. In parts of Canada your nearest neighbour can be an eight-hour drive away....

The cabin crew serve us some food. It is my first food since lunch because I refuse to pay the ransom-hike prices in the departure lounge. Then, being the good motorcyclist that I am, I fish my earplugs out of my pocket and get a good 4 hours sleep. The earplugs do an excellent job of defeating Screaming Baby.

The flight is uneventful. We land at Heathrow and my sister is there to meet me. What would I do without her? We head straight over to James Cargo to collect Tigger. He’s sitting in the yard waiting, still attached to his packing crate. To release him the guys there use a crowbar, a saw, a claw-hammer and a short ramp. Clearly there’s no way I could have done that by myself unaided in Toronto. We reconnect the battery and Tigger fires up without needing any jump-leads. This is good to know for future reference. The engine runs despite the lack of petrol in the tank. They have pumped out as much fuel as they could, but the fuel gauge says 20 miles range still available. This is also good to know for future reference. In the past I have ridden for at least five miles with it reading 0. The windscreen needs to be refitted and the handguards, and then we’re good to go.

I stop at the nearest petrol station to fill up and a short time later I’m back at my sister’s house. The traffic on the M25 was no better than you might expect but even so it felt good to have Tigger’s tank between my knees again! This is my happy place.

Next morning I’m on the road heading north to Lincolnshire to visit my Mum. After a short stay I’m back on the road heading home to Scotland. It is raining initially as I trundle along the A17 between trucks and tractors. The rain continues as I head northwards on the A1, weaving between lines of stationery traffic when I have to. The weather clears as I turn off the A1 onto the A68 and swoop through Northumbria towards the Scottish Border. I stop in bright sunshine at Jedburgh for an Ice cream and before long I’m joining the traffic on the Edinburgh ring-road.

So, what’s next? My attempt on Canada hasn’t worked out this time but Tigger and I are still all prepped for a significant adventure. We’ve done 1,600 miles when we’re ready for 16,000.

There’s a company in Poland who offer motorcycle shipments from Warsaw to Vancouver and from Montreal back to Warsaw, including all the local support that I would need in all relevant places. I exchange a few emails with them. Their shipping dates would give me 10 weeks to tour across Canada from west to east. It’s a tempting thought. If I want to give this a go I will need to get my skates on, though, because their shipping dates are pre-fixed to keep costs down and I would need to get Tigger to Warsaw pronto.

The other option is to leave Canada until next year, when I might try for Toronto again, and to spend this summer finding out how far east I can get. I can go east from here without needing any air-freight. Turkey should be within reach, maybe also Tbilisi in Georgia, and maybe even Azerbaijan after that if their land borders ever re-open (they closed for a covid lockdown in 2020 and have remained closed ever since). Azerbaijan even opens up the possibility of Kazakhstan if I can manage the notoriously illogical logistics of the ferry that crosses the Caspian sea.

I decide to spend a week or two at home working out a new plan. Tigger and I will be back on the road somewhere after that. If you’ve enjoyed reading the blogs so far then don’t stop now! There’s definitely more to come…..

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3 comentários

Membro desconhecido
23 de abr. de 2023

Such a shame Jon, something that sounds simple isnt always as easy as it should be. give me a shout if you fancy going for a run somewhere when your back


Membro desconhecido
23 de abr. de 2023

Hi Jon. I'm REALLY sorry to hear about the transit issues. I've imported stuff into the UK, but haven't shipped anything out of, but could have tried to contact friends in T.O. to find out about shipping partners if I'd known. Drop me a message if you want me to try 'for the future'. No promises as most aren't in the shopping industry, but someone must know someone who is :-). Failing that, I can recommend the North West of Scotland (off the NC 500) if you have the time. I've been round the world twice (not on a bike most to the time), but rate is as well inside my top 3 for motorcycle journeys, particularly the backroa…


Membro desconhecido
22 de abr. de 2023

Onward and upward Jof.

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